A Whole New Take on Eating Green

Ever considered how your diet affects the environment? Food and climate change cross paths in a big way. Every day, huge amounts of food are produced, processed, transported, consumed and thrown away. This puts a serious strain on the Earth’s natural resources. 
The good news is that research points toward dietary changes that we can all make to reduce food’s impact on the planet. Less is more when it comes to eating your way toward a healthier Earth. Here are three tips to help you start shrinking your carbon footprint today:

1. Waste less. About one-third of food is thrown out every year around the world. In the U.S. alone, 40 percent of food is wasted annually, on average, at a cost of at least $589 per family. Food waste largely contributes to the depletion of the Earth’s resources, since production requires water, land, and energy—even for the food that ends up in landfills. Reducing food waste saves you money for buying less. It also reduces methane emissions from landfills, and it conserves energy. Try planning your meals at the start of each week and only buy what you need for that time period. Donate extra nonperishable items from your pantry to your local food bank. 

2. Eat fewer animal products. Meat production hits Earth’s resources harder than any other food group, followed by dairy. Animal-based foods play a big role in greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming. It also uses up a lot of the Earth’s land and water. Beef production has an even greater impact on the environment than other animal products. Reducing beef consumption and eating more chicken, pork, eggs, and plant-based protein sources—such as beans, nuts, and grains—could decrease greenhouse gas emissions from food production by up to 35 percent.

3. Reduce your calorie intake. When it comes to changing your diet in an effort to help the planet, one of the simplest approaches is to reduce the number of calories you eat. Eating less calories—especially by eating more fruit, vegetables, and dietary fiber rather than meat—can help you lose weight and improve your overall health. That would reduce overall healthcare costs and resources, and would hopefully lead to less waste and a need for less food.

Reasons to Buy Local Food 

Imagine biting into a ripe, juicy strawberry that a farmer grew just miles from your home. Thanks to a variety of different options that are available today, you can get your hands on fresh, seasonal produce that farmers grow in your community.

Here are just a few benefits to buying local:
1. Buying local food is often less expensive: the cost of food accounts for factors such as transportation and seasonality. The prices of foods that have been transported hundreds or thousands of miles across the nation factor in the fuel costs for transportation and storage. When paying for a local apple, you’re saving yourself gas money!

2. Buying local is better for the environment: saving gas doesn’t only save you money. Local food overall has a lower carbon footprint because it only has to travel a few miles instead of a few hundred miles to get from farm to fork.

3. Local food tastes better: a tomato straight from the vine tastes significantly more delicious than one picked days or weeks prior and set to ripen in a chemically-controlled warehouse.

4. Local food is more nutritious: the same study mentioned above not only found higher levels of flavor compounds in freshly picked, local food, but also higher levels of nutrients like vitamin C.

5. Local food supports farmers: when you buy something, your money is paid to the person who made it, right? Would you rather your food money go to a farm in another state or country, or to your local farmer? Buying locally gives your money back to your own community, supporting the more than 245,000 people employed in agriculture in Indiana.

6. Local food is cleaner: since food is picked at peak ripeness and sold right away, far fewer preservatives are needed, as well as less packaging. This helps keep the food free from toxic chemicals like BHT, nitrates and more. 

Learn more about local farmers markets in the area.

* The Purdue University Extension Office contributed to this article.

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